John G. Paton
Missionary to the Cannibals of the South Seas
Paperback. 186 Pages
There are some figures who tower over the history of the Christian faith. They are marked by their courage, their godliness, and their sheer faithfulness. There are many missionaries in this number and John Paton must rank high among them. Few have carried out a more difficult, costly, or perilous ministry. Few have suffered to the degree that he did. Few have seen so many won to Christ. His story is now told anew in Paul Schlehlein’s John G. Paton: Missionary to the Cannibals of the South Seas.
Schlehlein, himself a missionary to the Tsongas in rural South Africa, offers four reasons for preparing his book. First, he wishes to contrast Paton’s indomitable courage and indefatigable moxie with the “diplomacy and emotional sensitivity” that marks the world and, indeed, the church today. Second, he believes Paton’s pen can arrest today’s audience as it did more than a century ago. For this reason, Schlehlein often allows Paton to speak in his own words. Third, he means to encourage missionaries and gospel workers who are fainthearted and weary with their task. He hopes that when such readers learn what God did among the cannibals of the South Seas they will be encouraged to press on in their own work. Finally, he is convinced there are crucial lessons to draw from Paton’s life. For this reason, only half of the book is biography while the rest is dedicated to lessons the biography displays.
Paton’s story is powerful and is worthy of a new telling. Schlehlein has done the church a great service in telling it again and telling it well, for “just as stars shine brightest in a moonless sky, the grace of the Lord Jesus flashes most brilliantly before the man-eaters of the New Hebrides.”
"On August 30, 1858, four months after its departure from bonnie Scotland, John Paton's ship dropped anchor off the coast of a sandy island in the sprawling Pacific. Overcome with excitement, Paton and his nineteen-year old wife transferred their cargo on to a small, overloaded boat and perched themselves among the boxes. As they shoved off, the mainmast broke, nearly decapitating Paton's new bride. Though the vessel was now disabled and ten miles from shore, the captain of the mother ship cruelly pulled away and left them to their fate..."
I am grateful to Paul Schlehlein for providing a new look at the life and ministry of John G. Paton. Early in my life I was enduringly impacted by Paton’s autobiography edited by his brother, James. The story was a stunning account of dedication, desperation, sacrifice at the most extreme level, and selfless love to Christ. I was marked for life by the amazing missionary adventure and the far reaching and lasting gospel impact of that one man empowered and protected by the Holy Spirit. In this age when giving a trophy to everyone is standard, and when minimal Christian dedication is celebrated, all believers need to go back to the past to see what true devotion to Christ and the gospel really looks like. You will see it in John Paton.
- John MacArthur
Few books are more inspiring to the Christian reader than a compelling missionary biography. This book is no exception. Paul Schlehlein has given us a heart-moving, soul-stirring survey of the life and labours of the famed missionary to the flesh-eating cannibals of the South Sea Islands, John G. Paton. Paton’s zeal for reaching this remote people group with the good news of the gospel will both encourage and motivate you in your own Christian walk. These pages will challenge your commitment to Jesus Christ and intensify your zeal to live for the glory of God. You simply must read this book and, by God’s grace, learn the lessons Paton’s extraordinary life sets forth.
- Steve Lawson